Summer is the season of Hollywood Blockbusters and it is in this frivolous spirit that The Prime Writers give way to the dream and have a go at casting their novels as films. Throughout the month of August Prime Writers will be putting forth their ideas. It will be interesting to see whether readers agree with our choices in casting beloved characters.
It’s Keith Mansfield’s turn to discuss how he’d cast his books from the Johnny Mackintosh series.
I signed the contract and wrote much of the first novel in my Johnny Mackintosh science fiction series while the book publisher at the British Film Institute. With a regular diet of previews and premieres it’s no surprise I was thinking visually … cinematically when writing the book. Where reviews have been critical they’ve alluded to the text reading too much like a screenplay, but I’ve also loved the comments from readers such as “It was like watching a film in my head”. A few key set-piece scenes were certainly penned with a nod to the expected movie or TV spinoff that so far has mysteriously not materialized.
When your main characters are young you can’t really plan for particular actors to play them, given the length of time it takes to transform a book onto the silver screen. But for the grownups in the book I did sometimes have actors in mind. For my flame-haired American social worker, Katherine Harutunian, step forward red-haired Canadian actor Rachel McAdams. Most recently she starred in the Oscar-winning Spotlight, but at the time she’d just been in The Notebook and I was as smitten as Owen Wilson in Wedding Crashers. It helped that in an interview I’d read she expected she’d one day settle down with a writer. It’s unlikely she’ll ever get to star in Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London: the Movie so I was pleased she played the title character in one of my other favourite books, Clare Abshire in a sadly somewhat sanitized The Time Traveler’s Wife.
The story arc of my social worker sees her increasingly up against American Secret Service agent, Colonel Bobbi Hartman, and it seems only right and proper another Hollywood A-lister should take that role. This one’s a tougher call, but given she graduated from Dawson’s Creek, starred in the worst date movie ever (Blue Valentine) and also what’s probably the most incredible film of the millennium to date, Synechdoche New York (penned by my screenwriting hero Charlie Kaufman), I’ll offer the part to Michelle Williams. Every actor loves playing the villain yet it’s not something I’ve seen her do up until this point. Perhaps that means the job might just tempt her?
Johnny’s PE (physical education) teacher and football coach, Mr Davenport, is part homage to my own schoolteacher and part to the larger than life character, Brian Clough. He even wears Clough’s trademark green sweatshirt in the books. Now Clough was played magnificently by Michael Sheen in The Damned United who would be perfect for my role, except perhaps for possible on-set tensions since he was once married to Rachel McAdams.
Johnny’s mum is a great character I can’t say much about in case people are going to read the book, but I have thought about giving that role to Kate Beckinsale, only she was married to Michael Sheen too. McAdams, Beckinsale and Sheen on set together? Eek! Everything’s so much simpler in a book.